That said, the job can be a blast. “You get to work on the water, run boats fast, and help people,” says Jessup.
Sea Tow members are covered everywhere, from the local harbor out to the outer islands. “Maine to the Virgin Islands,” as Jessup puts it. Weather and wave conditions affect everything, but even if Sea Tow can’t make the run, the member is covered for the first $5,000 of the tow, whether Sea Tow or another operator comes to their aid.
Jessup’s Sea Tow location in Falmouth was carefully chosen: It is situated close to Woods Hole Pass, a notorious navigation hazard. An entire ocean basically gets squeezed through this narrow channel formed between southwest Falmouth the Elizabeth Island archipelago. Tides surge and currents swirl in an area full of big jagged rocks.
In August 2011, a 108-foot luxury charter yacht collided with Great Ledge off Woods Hole. A four-foot hole was ripped in the hull, through which cold seawater began to surge, flooding her. Not only was the ship going down: It was also obstructing a major navigational channel and the boat had 3,000 gallons of diesel on board. Sea Tow got the call, and every resource was brought to bear. Jessup describes the scene when they arrived. “You go down below, you’ve got water in the bilge to your knees, and it’s still rising,” he says. “But you’ve got to get in there.”
Soon the company had seven gas pumps running full bore, pumping water out, and they were able to get the bow of the boat beached at Nobska so it didn’t sink to the bottom. It took all day, but they were able to patch the hole and the boat limped into dry dock for repairs.
Jessup has seen any number of things go wrong, from engine fires to simply running out of fuel, but if he had just one piece of advice for mariners, it would be to always travel with anchors the right size for your for your vessel. A boat adrift is in danger, but a good anchor can at least keep you off the rocks until help arrives, he says. The accepted ratio is to have seven-to-nine feet of rode (anchor line) per foot of depth to allow the anchor to properly dig in. Jessup frequently sees boaters with insufficient line to do the job properly.
No rescue operation, however extensively prepared, can substitute for good seamanship, proper training, and the use of safety and navigational equipment. But knowing you have Sea Tow on call if things go wrong provides a little peace of mind for mariners around the Cape and the Islands.
For more information, visit seatow.com or call 508-564-9555.
Rob Conery is a frequent contributor to Cape Cod Life.